A Bronx woman, Jane Doe, had been arrested “in Bronx County Family Court for violating an order of protection that was part of a child custody dispute with her former partner” CNN reports. However, at 40 weeks pregnant, she went into labor just hours later, where she was taken from a cell to a hospital. But that didn’t stop mistreatment from the NYPD. Doe was brought to New York’s Montefiore Medical Center “with metal cuffs on her wrists and heavy shackles on her feet, binding her legs together at the ankles.” Doctors and nurses asked the police to remove these shackles, citing health concerns for both the mother and child, but police refused, claiming that it was NYPD policy to do so. But that’s a lie. As CNN reports, “shackling pregnant women in police custody or prison was banned in New York State starting in 2009” with the policy being “updated in 2015 to include the use of any restraints on pregnant women.” Whether or not it is NYPD policy is irrevelant, not only because the practice is cruel and dehumanizing, but it is also against the law.
Futhermore, the complaint from Doe’s attorneys alleges that Doe had not been resisting or acting out in an unruly manner. While police eventually removed the restraints (only minutes before active labor), they put them back on right after Doe had given birth, preventing her from being fully able to bond with her newborn child.
Doe is now entitled to $610,000 from the city of New York, thanks to a settlement, but the practice of shackling pregnant women is unfortunately all too common. The passage of the First Step Act in Congress last December has now banned the practice of shackling pregnant people in federal prisons, however, the federal prison population represents only a small fraction of incarcerated people. Most are in the state and local prison system. Furthermore, the ACLU says that while the First Step Act is a good first step, there’s still a lot more to be done about the conditions pregnant people face in prison, citing concerns like lack of access to OB-GYN care and the use of solitary confinement.
Header Image via Flickr Creative Commons / Patrick
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